South West Coast Path - Gunwalloe to Mullion Cove
Updated: Jun 8
Map: OS Explorer: 103
Distance: 4.4 miles/7.1 km
Steepness grade: Moderate
Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer
The first part of the walk sets off from the Halzephron Inn and descends to the beaches of Dollar Cove and Church Cove and then follows the coast round to Poldhu beach. This is a scenic walk with coastal views across Mounts Bay to the Penwith Moors and inland over Gunwalloe Marsh, a nationally important reedbed and wetland which supports a huge variety of birds and associated wildlife.
There is a National Trust car park, takeaway café and toilets just a short walk from the beaches at Dollar Cove and Church Cove situated next to Winnianton Farm which is the site of one of the largest and most important Dark Age settlements in Cornwall. This is Poldark territory, Dollar Cove, also known as Jangye Ryn, is named after the silver dollars that have occasionally been found from the wreck of a Portuguese ship that went down here in the 17th century. This is a rather pebbly beach but a great place to explore rock pools and search for treasure! In series 2 of Poldark there is plenty of action at Dollar Cove with smugglers thwarted by the Customs officers and soldiers.
Church Cove is a popular bathing spot adjacent to Dollar Cove. The Church of Winwalloe, giving Church Cove its name, shelters behind a huge prehistoric cliff castle, and was originally established in the 6th-century by a Breton saint of the same name. The buildings visible today were built in the 13th-century, with a distinct separate bell tower in the cliff itself. Church Cove first made an appearance early in Series 1 of Poldark where it was the scene of a night time shipwreck. Perhaps the inspiration for the location came from the fact that the shifting sands here were already the site of the wreck of the 17th century Schiedam. The Schiedam was a Dutch ship in the East India service, it was captured in 1863 by French privateers on the way back from northern Spain with a cargo of timber, but was soon re-captured by an English galley frigate and then served in the English Navy fleet. In 1684, on a return voyage from the military evacuation of Tangiers, the vessel was driven ashore at Church Cove in a gale. The ship was carrying navy miners. Horses and machinery as well as guns and stores which had been captured in the assault.
Poldhu is a favourite beach with locals and visitors alike. Lots of soft sand, which is revealed at low tide, makes this popular with families, especially as the beach is lifeguarded during peak times. There is a car park, toilets and a very popular café at the back of the beach which is a great place to take a break and grab some lunch, a hot drink and an ice-cream. When the wind, tide and swell align this is a popular surfing beach. If you fancy a go, then Dan Joel Surf School is operated from the back of the beach with lessons and board hire available.
The second part of the walk takes you away from Poldhu up round Poldhu Point and Mên-y-grib Point onto Angrouse Cliff popular with birdwatchers especially in the autumn when the area’s colony of cliff-nestling house martins may attract the attentions of a passing bird of prey, such as the rare marsh harrier. “An grouse” is Cornish for “The Cross” and it was the meeting place for local Methodists from 1758 until 1762. It is thought that there was a stone cross here in medieval times, although there is no trace of it today. The walk then passes by the Marconi Station World Heritage Site where the country’s first transatlantic wireless telegraphy signals were sent to Newfoundland, 1800 miles away, where Guglielmo Marconi was able to receive the message on his yacht in the South Atlantic.
The walk then takes in the steep cliffs leading to Polurrian Beach, Carrag-Luz “Love Rock” and finally Mullion Cove.
Polurrian marks the western end of a major boundary running through Mullion and across to Porthallow on the eastern side of the peninsula. This is where Cornwall stops geologically and the Lizard begins, the slate of the former giving way here to the hornblende schist of the latter.
The name Carrag-Luz is Cornish but “Love Rock” is a romantic mistranslation. Carrack does mean “rock” but luz (sometimes written lodge) means “grey”.
Mullion Cove is a picturesque granite-harboured fishing hamlet. The construction of Mullion Harbour was financed by Lord Robartes at a personal cost of almost £10,000 between 1890 and 1892. They used granite, serpentine and other local stone in its construction. It provided assistance and protection to the inshore pilchard seine fishery and a restocking facility for the many ships seeking shelter. It hosted many annual Regattas, involving Fishermen, Coastguards and visitors, taking part in sailing and swimming races attracting hundreds of spectators watching from the piers and surrounding cliffs. Between 1867 and 1909 the cove had its own lifeboat station after 69 lives were lost in nine shipwrecks during a six-year period along just 1.5 miles of coastline.